Do you know what a maximaphilist is?

  • People
  • Monday, 31 Oct 2016

Yes Penang 2nd Bridge card is picture pretty.

What is maximaphily?

A maximum card is made up of three elements: The postcard, the stamp and the postmark. The object of maximaphily is to obtain a card where the stamp and picture are in close concordance, and the postmark corresponds with these pictures. If all three elements are concordant, then that card truly is a maximum card.

When you figure it all out, it’s easy to understand why maximaphily enthusiasts go to the lengths they do to assemble the ultimate maximum card.

Ye Choh San once made a round trip from his home in Seremban, Negri Sembilan to Alor Setar in Kedah, through to Tumpat in Kelantan, and then Kota Baru, and finally, back to Seremban in 23 hours to put together the three elements that make a maximum card.

Maximaphily is an offshoot of philately. A maximaphilist aims to get as many interesting postcards as possible and locates post offices that issue similarly-themed stamps and postmarks. Ye’s whirlwind trip might seem extreme, but it’s this dedication that won him second prize in the 13th World Best Maximum Card Competition last month, with his entry Orca – The Killer Whale earning him the plaudit.

Naturally, he began as a philatelist, a youthful interest which grew into a passion.

“I was attracted by the beauty of maximum cards when I saw one at an international exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur in the 1980s,” said the 60-year-old after his recent win, admitting that he didn’t even know what it was all about initially.

Maximaphilist Ye Choh San proudly displaying some of his winning entries and medals.

“I tried to look for concordant postcards matching the theme of the new stamp and tied them with a (regular) postmark. I didn’t realise or understand the importance of a concordant postmark on a maximum card.”

As a consequence, his initial attempts ended up being hollow victories. But he was not deterred, and was swept by the artistry involved in it.

Maximaphily is recognised by the Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP) as one of 11 branches of philately. It has its own commission, which gives it the authority and framework to host international maximum card competitions.

Knowing that, Ye vied to enter competitions to show his talent in creating these works of art.

“Although maximum cards were created by some enthusiasts during the end of the 19th century, it was not given a name until 1932, when a Belgium collector suggested in the Le Libre stamp magazine by naming it as such.”

The first maximum card association was formed in 1945 and the FIP recognised maximaphily in 1978.

Sourcing the raw materials is trickier than one may assume. For starters, according to Ye, the inventory of postcards in our country is limited and limiting.

This panda stamp was issued last year and Ye quickly assembled his maximum card.
This panda stamp was issued last year and Ye quickly assembled his maximum card.

“Postcards of a difficult subject may not be readily available at the normal sale outlets like bookshops or souvenir stores, so a maximum card collector must first develop the hobby of collecting postcards,” revealed Ye, adding that he has built a sizeable stockpile this way. There is also a waiting game involved, as concordant theme stamps and postmarks take time.

Maximaphily, though growing in interest in this region, is still rather new, so Ye has had to resort to getting in touch with friends overseas in an attempt to trade postcards.

“I find my way by joining international postcard exchange circuits like Postcrossing, which have allowed me to accumulate large quantities on various topics,” he explained.

Over the years, Ye has developed a large bank comprising a variety of themes, waiting for the appropriate stamps and postmarks to complete his cards. For him, it all begins with the postcards, and while it may not be that difficult to secure a matching stamp, the postmark remains the biggest challenge for maximaphilists.

“A concordant postmark is imperative in the creation of a maximum card. By concordance, it means the postmark has to have some link with the subject of the stamp and postcard, say a Penang Bridge maximum card, besides the stamp, the postcard having the concordant subject picture, the postmark has to originate from Penang,” Ye explained.

This is one of Ye's favourite cards, the Negri Sembilan Minangkabau Museum postmarked Seremban.
This is one of Ye's favourite cards, the Negri Sembilan Minangkabau Museum postmarked Seremban.

Obviously, maximaphily is not merely about slapping together a postcard, stamp and postmark, and Ye often engages in detailed research to know where to locate any one of the three elements involved. Thanks to the convenience of Google searches, information on the subject and the related concordant places is readily available. Most of the post office locations and addresses can be traced easily, so a maximaphilist can create a fully concordant maximum card.

“I came to know of the agile gibbon, which only inhabits the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, in the Muda National Park reserve. So, I realised a maximum card of the animal tying a postmark from the Kota Kuala Muda post office.”

Maximaphily is an investment, not only of time, but financial resources as well, since travelling is an essential part of this hobby. And there’s also the frustration of scarcity of raw elements. However, Ye, who has more than 10,000 cards in his collection, has extracted joy from every minute of it. Why else would he have travelled 1,375km from his home through the East-West Highway and back, starting his journey at 2am?

Now, that’s dedication.

Seeking hobbyists

Fly-catcher? Finger wrestler? Air trumpeter? If you have a unique, out-of-this world, wacky hobby or passion that you’d like to share, please write in to our hobbies coordinator, Revathi Murugappan, at

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